Belfast Telegraph

Uefa happy to gamble with United stars' fitness: Jose

By Tim Rich

Jose Mourinho has accused Uefa officials of not caring whether his Manchester United players were injured on a playing surface he likened to "a field".

The United manager said the surface at Rostov's grandly-named Olimp-2 Stadium was similar to the one at the Bird's Nest Stadium in Beijing, where a pre-season derby between the Red Devils and Manchester City was abandoned in July because both Mourinho and Pep Guardiola felt their players would risk injury by playing on it.

Mourinho has long felt that the tie should be postponed or moved to another venue. If the game is to be called off, United have to make a formal application at tomorrow's organisational meeting.

"It's still hard for me to believe we are going to play tomorrow. I know we have to but it is hard to believe we are playing on that field, if you call it a field," said the Portuguese.

"I don't know which team I am going to play. It is a very similar pitch to the one in China. Us and City decided we should not play but here we have to play.

"I have not had any contact with anyone until just now when I had quick contact with one gentleman from Uefa when I was looking at the pitch. When I told him of my concerns, the gentleman told me that the players are insured and, if someone is injured, then no problem."

It is hard to see what United would gain by postponing the first leg of this Europa League Round of 16 tie. As soon as they return from Russia, they will have to prepare for an FA Cup quarter-final with Chelsea. Their Premier League run-in, with fixtures against Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and the Manchester derby still to come, is also utterly unforgiving.

United defender Daley Blind said that although the pitch was poor, it was better to play and win than postpone and return.

"I have just been outside and the pitch is not the best," he said. "It is not good and you have to concentrate, try to focus and try to win. That is what we are here for. The pitch is not good but it cannot be an excuse for us."

  • FC Rostov v Manchester Utd: Europa League Round of 16, First Leg, Olimp-2, Tonight, 6.00pm

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